Truth vs Facts in Painting

“Paint the truth beneath the facts. ” This sage piece of painterly advice was excitedly brought to the attention of a small group of artists sharing studio space by our inspiring mentor and ringleader. Yes” came the enthusiastic response from all of us followed by blank stares at first. After a little discussion, the concept was clarified in other words: “paint the feeling instead of just replicating the scenery.”

Okay, but how to do that when painting an abstract idea to begin with? Can a feeling be abstracted or paired down anymore to its essence?  Do we need to call in Carl Jung? What the heck is this all about anyway–I just want to paint please.

There are certain tools or elements to work with including line, shape, color, value, form, texture, and space which can be manipulated along with design principles of balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast and movement. Throw in some rhythm and harmony and you’ve got it right? Wishful thinking.

Nuance and finesse can be the deciding factors. Anyone can manipulate line or shape and color, but it is the eye and hand of the artist who shows us what is hidden or unbidden inside each of us, whether that is through the cords of a bluesy song, sensual movement of dance, poetic license or strokes of paint on paper. It is the work of the artist who fights, really hard, to interpret that feeling onto a surface. Sometimes defined as a process or a journey–it is the task of the artist to touch and interpret feeling in order to truly “paint the truth beneath the facts” and turn personal vision into a sweeping sensation for all to share in the movement.






June—a favorite month to be outdoors—to breathe the nascent summer scents, to listen to birdsong and bellowing frogs and wear the warm cloth of the summer sun on bare skin. Evenings too, are especially sensual and sweet with fireflies (or lightning bugs), soft breezes, rustling leaves and rain or stars pulsing a sticky sky. It’s a perfect time to sit and write, read poetry and indulge longings of the creative sort. With that in mind, I let go a free flow of hand through brush and words come what may.

This June, I also watched and was engrossed in National Geographic’s program Genius: Picasso and was very inspired by his relentless pursuit of his artistry and his sad pursuit of women/muses often to the detriment of their lives. There is much debate these days about whether or not one can/should separate the art from the artist. Picasso was narcissistic, egotistical and highly competitive, traits I most often find offensive. However, watching the brilliant performance of the actors on a small screen, his story in hindsight and empathizing with Picasso’s process and pain as an artist, I was engrossed and inspired by his vision despite these flaws. Also with his circle of creative compatriots—Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Braque and others. I will read Francoise Gilot’s book Life With Picasso to get her take on their life together as his lover and contemporary artist. From the blurb: “Francoise Gilot paints a compelling portrait of her turbulent life with the temperamental genius that was Picasso.” Oh, and he was a poet too.

So this warm but comfortable night, I share these thoughts, words and paintings:

O me!
O Life!
A few pencil strokes between the o
in Picasso
and Grillo


tumbleweed a rusling breeze
nomads of the night sky


the unturned stone’s lost syllables


in the holy of the artist rides the shotgun











New York New York

The New Fancy 

after an article by Joyce Cohen in The New York Times: March 26, 2017
The Hunt — Self-Employed Artists Find A Home Without Wheels


She a drummer
he plays guitar and acts.
They both sing
“misfit pop” tracks.

The couple rolled into NYC
in an ’82 Volkswagon camper
landing in Bedford-Stuy, Brooklyn,
rough around the edge but not cramper.

As self-employed artists they filmed
“Consumer Comments On Vegan Mayonnaise”
(cannot make this stuff up)
neither a critical success or a campy craze.

Always looking on the bright side,
they searched for an affordable rental:
750 sq. ft. in central Harlem — its windows covered
with paper, certainly to these two, nothing detrimental.

On a clear day
it’s off with the paper for plenty of light,
while the bathroom faucet growls on and off
frightening away critters throughout the night.

The water pressure is so low —
one neighboring wifi network is aptly named,
“NoWaterPressureHere,” thus insuring
urban wit and creativity, above all, take aim.

“It’s better than the wheels,” so they say
and certainly not permanent.
As artists seeking gritty New York,
now all they have to do — is pay the rent.

ag ~ 2017



Not Black and White

Every once and again, we come to a crossroad, or as a friend likes to say, choice points. Sometimes they appear to be as minor as choosing between two colors to paint with. Sometimes they are more than that.


yellow or black
if relevance comes at a price
can I mix the two?


black hole
void or depression
which color?


her head in a fog
the backstory merges
into the foreground


self-portrait as the painting dictates its own


the illusion
of positive and negative space jumps
off the canvas into my car



Bourbon, Brine and Birthday Cake

late to celebrate
the moon is my oyster tonight


wolf moon
each oyster casts off
its cool light


wolf moon
on our lips
bourbon and brine


oysters in the old mansion marble stories in their shells


a sip of the wolf moon cycles in oyster brine a howling sea


the wolf moon
the mansion’s marble
the oyster’s brine
a poet’s charcoal etching
rain tonight